The labour laws in India are the laws that are formed to govern the working people and their organizations and at the same time protect their legal rights and provide them remedies as when the need arises. The obligations that arise out of the employment of a certain worker is also mentioned in the act along with those of a labour union and the employer. Labour laws in India are basically covers three aspects of the employment that are: Industrial requirements, workplace health and safety, Employment conditions.
These factors are to be fulfilled by the employer and thus the obligation of the employer is only fulfilled when the current demands of the act are recognized and acted upon by the employer. These demands that are kept by the government have an impact on the society as they influence the decisions made by the employers and thus in turn which affects the wellbeing of the working class. Labour laws are a series of laws that have been formed by the government of India over a period of time to ensure that these reforms help in increasing the working standards of the working class people in the country.
[i]These labour laws can be broadly classified into two parts: the collective labour laws in which there exists a tripartite relation between the Employer, Employee and the trade union, the individual labour law in which there are rights of an individual that needs to be recognized and respected by the employer.
Establishment of labour laws in India
The labour laws in India were established in the colonial times where the British established some restrictions on the wealthy textile mill owners and introduced the eight hours a day shifts and other laws that helped in proper management of the labour class and also provide them some basic rights like overtime wages so that their interests can also be safeguarded against the wealthy exploiters.
The labour feels protected by these laws and thus the productivity increases. The laws that are established to help the labour also helps in increasing the overall output of the concern as the labour feels secure and protected and thus can work freely.
The workers can approach the management regarding any issue that they are facing and can put forward their grievances as the employer has certain obligation that arises out of the laws defined by the government and those obligations are to be fulfilled. The workers can provide management with a better understanding of working conditions and can give inputs regarding how it can be changed according to the needs of the workers.
Labour laws provide a guarantee of the safe working environment along with proper remuneration and thus acts as a continuous reminder of the safety of the workers from the employers.
Types of Labour laws in India
There are several types of labour laws in India that have been operation for quite some time as they define the laws that are applicable on the workers as well as the employers so as to create a better and efficient working environment for the employees. [ii]Classification of labour laws is as follows:
Laws relating to wages in India
- Minimum wages act, 1948
- Payment of wages act, 1936
- Payment of Bonus act, 1965
Social Security laws
- Employees provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952
- Employees state insurance act, 1948
- Payment of Gratuity act, 1972
Laws relating to worker hygiene
- Factories act, 1948
- Industrial employment (Standing Orders) act, 1946
- Workmen compensation act, 1923
- Weekly holiday act, 1942
- The plantation labour act, 1951
- The Mines act, 1952
Laws related to women
- Equal remuneration act, 1976
- Maternity Benefit act, 1961
Prohibitive and protective laws
- Bonded labour system (Abolition) Act, 1976
- Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986
- Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act, 2013
- Trade unions act, 1926
- Shop and Commercial establishment act, 1961
- Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970
- Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
All these acts were created to keep the workers from being exploited by the employers as the working conditions that were provided to the workers were inhumane and no proper remuneration was given to them and moreover the workload on these workers was tremendous. So to change the situation and protect the workers the government had to take certain steps and introduce labour laws to bring a change in the society.
Currently labour laws in India falls under the provisions of [iii]Articles 14, 16, 19(1)(c), 21, 23, 24, 32, 35, 38, 39, 39A, 41, 42, 43, 43-A, 46, 47, 226, 227. Which shows that the labour laws are a very sensitive topic in India. Workers in India are exploited even after all the provisions are provided to them as most of the workers are unaware about the rights provided to them by the government and the employers take advantage of the situation and thus deny the workers proper remuneration and working conditions.
[iv]The central doctrine is the formation of a contract as the employment agreement is a contract that is formed between the employer and the employee. The law of contact states that the parties are free to enter into the contract but the aspect of inherent inequality is left out as there lies a superior economic strength with the employer and that is why he is able to influence the decisions of the employees. Which further leads to the exploitation of the workers and hence the inclusion of Article 14 is deemed necessary.
The article 14 is of special mention here as it is the Equality before law which does not mean that the all the human beings are absolutely equal but means that the equals are to be treated equally. In Randhir Singh v. Union of India[v], the Supreme Court has held that although the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’ is not expressly declared by our Constitution to be a fundamental right, but it is certainly a constitutional goal under Articles 14, 16 and 39 (c) of the Constitution. This right can, therefore, be enforced in cases of unequal scales of pay based on irrational classification. The decision in Randhir Singh’s case has been followed in a number of cases by the Supreme Court.
The workers are exploited on a daily basis in our country mostly because they are unaware about their rights and simply because the employers want to make more profits by exploiting the situation. There are many shortcomings in the current labour laws for instance a factory employing more than hundred workers cannot just lay off them as they need prior permission of the government to do so which is not granted easily and hence the employers have found new ways to keep up with the demand of the market but also at the same time contracting and outsourcing workforce which saves them money as they are casually employed and less wages are provided to these casual labourers and no other benefits like paid leaves and provided fund are present. This has caused serious problems for the government.
Rajasthan is one of the few states that have successfully recognized and build their own model to sustain labour laws in their state by introducing reforms in their laws that helped them to improve the flexibility of the laws and provide some relief to the workers in the state so that the interest of the workers is maintained and they are not exploited by the employers but at the same time keeping the laws under check so that it does not restrains the factory owners to cut their profits and find ways to change their course of action as the current laws make it flexible for the employers to [vi]retrench up to 300 employees without taking permission from the government which was previously set at 100 employees. Further, before the reforms an employee could raise an objection at any point of time against retrenchment but with the current reforms in place the upper limit has been set to three months.
Earlier the trade unions could be formed if the 15 per cent of the total work force were ready to take the membership of the union but in current scenario a minimum of 30 per cent of the total workforce has to be a member of the trade union only then a union can be formed.
[vii]All these reforms helped the government of Rajasthan to achieve a higher productivity and saw and increasing growth rate a much faster pace so much so that the total no. of firms with more than 100 employees or more were more in Rajasthan than whole of India combined as of 2014- 15 as these reforms were much more effective than those that were placed by the central government, as they lacked the need to provide safety to the employers as well.
Coping with the situation
The workers in our country need education regarding their rights and government institutions should provide the said education so as to increase the knowledge of the workers and make them aware about their rights and at the same time duties of their employers. The social securities should be provided to the workers and children should not be allowed to work in conditions like factories or mining industry as they should be given education so that they can find better means of employment and better opportunities for themselves. There should be reforms in the current hiring and firing norms as they are very cumbersome and one can find them very restraining on the day to day activities of the factories.
The current norms make it very difficult to operate and maintain a sizeable workforce as the government is trying to protect the interests of the workers more than that of the employers and as a result a lot of these producers have found themselves restricted to a small scale production facility but they have the potential to expand themselves and go beyond the boundaries of our country. This in short is hampering the workers as they are unable to find better employment opportunities for themselves and thus are restricted to the ones provided by the market.
[i] CONTEMPORARY ISSUES AND CHALLENGES IN LABOUR LAW REFORMS: AN OVERVIEW By Mrs. Archana Sawant (December, 2015)
[ii] Labor Laws In India – (Indian) Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 By Sulekha Kaul (September 06, 2017)
[iii] Constitutional Provisions which guarantee protection To Labour Laws By Aarsha (Constitutional Protection of Labour Laws)
[iv] LABOUR LAW By Anand Prakash (December, 1987)
[v] Randhir Singh v. Union of India AIR 1997 SC 3014. (to identify the basic meaning of right to equality)
[vi] Rajasthan Assembly passes labour law changes By Somesh Jha (August 01, 2014)
[vii] Economic Survey cites Rajasthan’s labour reform as ideal model to boost jobs, productivity By Prashant K. Nanda (July 05, 2019)